ONLY A TWO DAY RIDE
by Hilma (Volcano) Volk
campfire crackled in the crisp night air.
Joe's boots crunched on the frosty grass.
Stars that looked so close you could pluck them
Mirrored in the alpine lake, smooth as glass.
He had ridden two days to get here,
Like his father and grandfather, but not quite:
No bacon sizzled, no egg fried -
He munched bagels with cream cheese, light.
It was four in the morning of elk season.
But that's not why he couldn't sleep.
He thought of his dad, now departed,
And a promise he'd come here to keep.
He'd packed in the can with the ashes,
Though since winter old Ace had been dead.
And here where heaven touched the earth,
The remains of his father were spread.
Though the sky gave not a clue of dawn,
An elk bugled loud and shrill.
Joe answered, his skills well taught.
Then he started up the hill.
Daybreak found him on the edge of a ridge.
Elk music echoed all around.
Then thundering up came a massive bull;
He was there to defend his ground.
Joe studied the monarch in his sights,
Then he laid his rifle away.
For he knew this elk, from the scar on his chest,
Shaped just like the running J.
The Running J was his grandpa's ranch.
An' lest the old man's spirit lived inside,
It was one his father would never shoot,
Up where heaven was a two day ride.
Then a youngster elk with an untrained call
Bugled a warbling, wavering squeak.
He trotted up to the hunter's roost.
Joe eyed him and felt awed and weak.
The button spiked lad, he too had a scar.
Was like seeing a ghost in the face.
For as clear as could be was the letter
For his dad, the one they called Ace.
And he swore he heard his father's voice
As he studied the mark on the hide,
"Come up whenever you need me, Son.
Heaven's only a two day ride."